HP Steps Up Tablet PC Game With Windows 7-Powered Slate 2

to the Slate 500 tablet

Like its predecessor, the Slate 2 isn't a tablet in the iPad mold, but a Windows 7 tablet PC that HP is pitching to the education, health-care, government and retail sectors. And until Microsoft launches Windows 8, the Slate 2 will likely be the only tabletlike device in the HP portfolio.

Slated for availability later this month, HP's Slate 2 includes a number of incremental performance and usability upgrades and comes with an Intel Atom Z670 processor, an 8.9-inch diagonal capacitive multitouch display and battery life of up to six hours. For security-crazed enterprise customers, the Slate 2 comes with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip and BIOS support for Computrace Pro for remote wiping of data on the device. At $699, it's $100 cheaper than the Slate 500.

Perhaps the most noticeable upgrade is the Slate 2's new Swype keyboard, which replaces the somewhat clunky keyboard of the Slate 500 and allows for much less infuriating data entry using a finger or stylus.

Samsung and Dell recently released Windows 7 tablets, joining early movers including Asus, Acer and Fujitsu, notes Gurpreet Kaur, a tablet analyst for Gap Intelligence, a San Diego-based research firm. But despite the growth in this segment, Kaur isn't convinced that Windows 7 is an appropriate OS for this form factor.

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"Even though Android 2.3 or earlier versions were not meant for tablets, vendors still shipped products with dated Android OS versions," Kaur said. "Users may not have the best experience while using Windows 7 on a tablet."

HP channel partners, meanwhile, are still giddy over the company's decision not to sell or spin off its PC- and tablet-making Personal Systems Group. And they're encouraged that HP is getting back to focusing on hardware and its Microsoft partnership.

Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Fresno, Calif.-based solution provider, hasn't seen much demand for Windows 7 tablets but is optimistic that Microsoft will get it right. "I'm hopeful that Microsoft will find the right niche for Windows 8," Duffy said. "But they'll also have to match the hype and marketing demand that Apple has been so effective at creating."

Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider, believes Windows 7 tablets will be popular because of the giant application ecosystem that exists around the OS, which includes custom-built apps.

While it remains to be seen how Windows 8 will integrate into business environments, Fisher is already exploring potential sales strategies for Windows 8 tablets. "We can always throw Software Assurance on the tablet to give customers an immediate Windows 8 upgrade option if that’s what they are looking for," he said.

The Slate 500 had a rocky debut, with HP reportedly producing a limited number at launch and then failing to ramp up production until after it had begun touting the applicability of webOS and the TouchPad in business environments. Now that the TouchPad is history, HP can offer a single product to enterprise verticals and minimize confusion in its tablet-hungry customer base.